Trichotillomania is a compulsive hair-pulling disorder that can occur in children with learning disorders and other special needs. Mild cases of trichotillomania can be successfully treated at home and home remedies can help support medical treatment.
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Acknowledging and Understanding
The first step in recovering from any psychological disorder is to acknowledge and understand the problem. It can be helpful to your child if you discuss trichotillomania with him and also with other family members. Make it clear that you understand that he is not pulling his hair on purpose; many children feel ashamed and embarassed about this condition. Reassure him that there are many other children who have "trich."
Even despite your best efforts, it can be difficult to fully understand what your child is going through. There are many successful trichotillomania support groups. If your child is old enough, you may wish to get them involved with a trichotilolmania support group. She may find comfort and other tips through talking with children who are going through the same things she is.
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Practicing Impulse Control
The urge to pull hair can seem like an uncontrollable and overwhelming impulse. Fighting this impulse can seem impossible. However, with practice, many people are able to regain control. The more that you and your child practice fighting this impulse, the easier that it will get.
A good way to do this is to first help your child realize that he is pulling his hair - many people with trichotillomania do this subconsciously. When your child realizes that he is doing this, tell him to clench his fist near his head and focus on that. Counting or breathing can help take the focus off of the urge to pull. Setting small goals is a good practice. Sit down with your child and think of an attainable goal, such as not pulling for an hour. As this is achieved, the goals can be gradually increased. A sticker chart or some other type of reward system can provide further motivation and a feeling of acheivement.
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The urge to pull hair is relieved by the feeling that pulling the hair generates. This being said, someone with trichotillomania is craving a feeling of stimulation. Luckily, there are many positive ways to provide stimulation. Someone who pulls the hair on her head may enjoy brushing or washing her hair. Massaging the scalp or another area that she pulls hair from may also help. A warm bath or shower can also provide a welcome sensation and may also relax the individual.
For those that crave a more intense sensation, a rubber band can be worn around the wrist and snapped when the urge to pull is felt. This can also help trigger the brain to realize the compulsion and redirect to a different thought. Even petting an animal can help; for children who enjoy this and don't have pets, volunteering at a local shelter can be a great experience.
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Protect the Hair
Protecting the hair from pulling can help reduce the habit and keep the hair from being pulled. Wearing a hat or bandana can keep your child from touching his hair and, thus, protect it from being pulled out. Children with longer hair may also receive help from having their hair pulled back. Finally, helping your child to take good care of his hair can help him to realize that his hair belongs on his head and looks nice there. Regularly washing and combing his hair can help.
In addition, for girls, experimenting with different hair accessories and styles can help her to appreciate the hair and how nice it looks. Looking into the mirror to appreciate her hair and be proud of how long it has grown can also help.
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Creating distractions and providing positive outlets for your child to use his hands is a great way to overcome the urge to pull. Crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, model-making, and cross-stitching can provide a nice distraction and occupy the hands. In addition, your child will make something he can be proud of!
Along the same lines, painting or playing with Silly Putty or Play-Doh are other ideas. Even video games can be helpful! The more your child enjoys the activity, the more inclined he will be to stick with it, so don't be discouraged--try a few different things.
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Cognitive behavior therapy is often cited as the best way to recover from trichotillomania. It may be necessary to seek help from a professional who can teach you and your child ways to re-train her thinking. The Trichotillomania Learning Center has a list of doctors who deal specifically with this disorder, or you can speak to your family doctor.
Biofeedback and hypnotherapy are other methods used to help treat trichotillomania. Biofeedback requires a biofeedback monitor - a machine that monitors when your body is stressed. This is useful in helping your child recognize when she is feeling anxious and successfully learning relaxation techniques. Hypnotherapy is a method in which your child is taken through relaxation practices. There are therapists who practice biofeedback and hypnotherapy.